As my final Digital Humanities assignment of this semester, I was tasked to analyse any publicly available text using some visualization tools such as Voyant 2.0. I chose to analyse Artemis Fowl (2001, E.Colfer) in this way as it was the first book I read as child and nostalgia drew me back to it. There will be spoilers to the plot of this book beyond this point! Consider yourself warned should you wish to delve further.
So, just what does this jumble of text tell us? At first glimpse it looks pretty meaningless, like a kid just scribbled all over his parents’ walls. However, we can see all the main (and even most of the side characters) names appear in this block of words.
First, we have our main characters:
-Artemis Fowl (His name appears 748 times in total): Our protagonist, the boy genius who kidnaps our second main character, Holly and holds her at ransom.
-Captain Holly (Her name appears 429 times): A fairy and captain to the armies of fairies who live just below our feet.
-Commander Julius Root (His name appears 269 times): Commander of the fairy armies, his mission is to save Holly from Artemis.
-Butler (His name appears 229 times): Artemis’ most loyal and deadly servant, military-trained man but with a soft side for his younger sister.
and our secondary cast:
-Foaly (184 appearances): A centaur who is an expert in all things computing, he is allied with Commander Root.
-Mulch (149 appearances): A convicted criminal Dwarf with a nack for burrowing into places no one else can get to. He is reluctantly recruited by Root when it looks like he may be Holly’s only hope of escape.
-Juliet (84 appearances): Butler’s sister who he cares about above all else, even Artemis.
Now, using Voyant’s Trend tool, we are able to see when and where each character is mentioned in the story. This* is a link to a trend page of voyant which compares the frequency of characters appearing in the story. We can see from it, Artemis is always a character in focus, being the protagonist. However, Holly spikes in importance at chapter two and then is pushed to the side in a way by chapter four while other characters see more of the spotlight. Comparing mentions of characters in this way can show their importance to the story line at that moment (such as Commander Root receiving no mention in chapter one, due to this chapter primarily focusing on the kidnapping of Holly.)
Other words being used such as “Fairy”, “Troll” and even “Human” to an extent in context show us a little of the world in which Artemis Fowl resides. It is a fantasy world where ages ago, humans evolved and pushed fairies (who were weaker bodied but technologically superior) under the Earth, where they stayed and were forgotten about except in myths. Artemis believed in these myths and lures Holly – which is where the story begins, however it shows that in the ancient past of this world humans and other mythical creatures were at war, setting up a resentment of one another bringing racism into the novel as a theme (which is developed on in further installments of the series).
It also allows Colfer to write about fantastical creatures such as Dwarves with the power to burrow miles into the Earth, Trolls – mindless but powerful and dangerous creatures which dwell beneath our feet and so much more which gives this series a real flavour of that “fantastical but almost believeable world” one can truly immerse themselves in.
So, in answering, Voyant allows us to quickly glimpse and assemble the image of an entire book, it’s characters, main themes, genre and even the frequency of characters appearing in one amazing tool. It is a fantastic way to covert raw data into visual text and particularly great at turning novels and texts into one “bite-sized” chunk.
*Link to trending voyant page : http://voyant-tools.org/?corpus=d7d717b6b78e14ed7a0d3f081d420657&query=artemis&query=holly&query=root&withDistributions=raw&docId=799701add56d38cc81a7f6df42c2b527&mode=document&view=Trends
Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl (2001), Viking Press